A platform to help people stay connected with the community and check in with one another around the neighborhood.
Michelle Xie, Rachel Wong, Melise Kee, Sahara Dhunnookchand
What was the inspiration for NeighborCall?
One of the biggest problems we have seen with self-isolation due to COVID-19 is the increasing number of people being left alone. The most vulnerable ones are also the most alone as we have seen cases in Spain where dead bodies were found in abandoned homes and in Georgia where a hospital worker was found dead with her baby next to her body.
When in isolation, we tend to think about our friends, our families, and our loved ones but what happens to those who have no friends, no families, and no loved ones to look out for them?
This is where our inspiration for NeighborCall came about.
What if we could build something to connect those vulnerable ones to other people around them. What if we could build something to check in on the vulnerable ones around us. What if we could continue to make connections, friendships, and form bonds whilst being physically isolated. And what if we could make something to ensure that those left alone are no longer left alone.
What is NeighborCall?
NeighborCall is a platform to connect those in isolation with their community and their neighborhood. NeighborCall starts with a website. The website asks for 4 simple pieces of information:
- What is your name?
- Where do you live?
- How would you like to be contacted?
- When do you want to be contacted?
This data is then passed onto our algorithms in the backend to pair up households and schedule them for calls to check on one another. The aim of NeighborCall is to help connect those who are left alone with someone nearby to check up on them on a daily basis. Users who sign up to the website will have full transparency in how we share their data with strangers and can opt-in or out for anonymity. In addition, on each sign up, we will be contacting the household to get further confirmation and permission on what data we can share with others around their neighborhood. Once we receive confirmation, we will start pairing up households and alert each household pair via text messages or email and then it is left up to them to contact one another to make sure each household is staying safe and staying connected. If a particular household is not contactable, NeighborCall will be notified. NeighborCall will then check up on the household that was not within reach and alert authorities nearby if the household is completely unresponsive within a certain time period.
How did we build NeighborCall?
We started building NeighborCall with a mock-up design to prototype and envision what features we would need to have. The mock-up we have so far is a simple HTML page that uses a form to gather the user’s data. This data will then be populated into a database. We will have functions in the backend to run through and scan the database on a continuous basis and look for valid household pairs. Once household pairs are found, we will use text messaging services like Twilio or an email messaging service to notify each household pair that they have been paired up alongside their contact details and preferred contact times. Our code currently lies in a GitHub repository. The project is still continuously being built out.
What are some of the challenges that we ran into?
Timezone difference was definitely one of our biggest challenges! Our team of 4 are not only all physically isolated from one another but we have people working in 3 separate timezones from Australia, New Zealand to the UK. That being said, having the ability to do work remotely and collaborate virtually has never been more important and we tried our best to find the right time to work together as a team.
What are the accomplishments that we are proud of?
Even though the hack was over a week, we only discovered it as a team two days prior to the deadline and started working on NeighborCall as a team straight away. Overcoming the timezone differences and this, we are very proud as a team on the work and the effort we managed to pull together over 2 days. But as a whole, we as a team really believe that NeighborCall can help people through this COVID-19 crisis so we have all agreed to continue to work on making this platform a reality for society.
What have we learned?
Some of the most brilliant startup ideas come from the strangest circumstances. Who knew we would be building a platform to make sure people can stay connected during a lockdown! One of the biggest factors we learned during this crisis is how important human interaction is and how much society and the economy thrives on it. With NeighborCall, we are hoping to help everyone maintain as much of this human connection and interaction as possible so that we can continue to do what we are best at which is staying connected and supporting one another.
What's next for NeighborCall
We have so much planned for expanding this platform including a community support page and forum where the community can upload content on the latest news and updates regarding COVID-19 as well as an official contacts page where people could find all the official information and links to health information such as how to stay safe, the official hotline numbers to dial as well as the latest official government announcements.